BENGALURU: Our Indian hearts break faster than many others. Physician and psychiatrist Dr Shyam Bhat, who shot into the limelight as actor Deepika Padukone’s therapist, quotes studies: “40% of Indians carry a gene that makes us more sensitive to disapproval and rejection”.
We are vulnerable in other ways, says the author of the recently released How to Heal a Broken Heart. For one, we have a yawning blind spot. “Many Indians are unprepared for the pain of heartbreak,” he says. Add to that our reluctance to talk about love and romance, and the tiresome generation gap.
Indians are dating more and negotiating changing gender roles. “Women are more independent and free and many men feel unsettled by this,” says Dr Bhat.
The Bengaluru-based psychiatrist, founder of Seraniti.com, is set to talk about our changing times at the the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2016 on November 19. He will be hosting a conversation about “The Modern Epidemic of Entitlement”, on high expectations people keep and how that makes them vulnerable to disappointments.
Stress levels are high in the city, as in most metros, he says. “Some studies indicate that as many as 40% of urban professionals suffer from significant stress and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression,” he says.
Emotional stress and heartbreak, if you will, are not to be taken lightly. According to him, they can even kill. “Emotional stress can result in a condition called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or the broken heart syndrome... stress hormones weaken the walls of the heart causing heart failure, and in rare instances, death,” he says. There is also the chances of a heartbreak leading to clinical depression and “increasing the risk of suicide”.
“It is estimated that as many as 25,000 people kill themselves every year in this country because of heartbreak,” says Dr Bhat. “Many others suffer long-term harmful effects that are harder to quantify such as changes in lifestyle, chronic anger and cynicism, substance abuse, isolation and stress.”
The best way to respond to it, according to him, “is to take care of one’s physical health and to allow the space and time to heal from the pain, and not hesitate to seek nurturing and support from friends and loved ones”.
Heartbreaks can be good for personal growth. “My book details how a person can explore his or her innermost self and, when approached in the right manner, the pain of heartbreak helps a person become stronger, compassionate and empathic,” he says. A person is “prepared for better relationships in the future”.
Dr Bhat is known for his unique approach to mental health. He combines psychotherapy and Vedanta. He believes that “the Western ideals are not completely suitable for the Indian mind”.
“In the west, a healthy individual is one who is sure of himself or herself, with clearly defined boundaries, strongly held opinions, likes and dislikes,” he says. “Emphasis is paid to the individual self rather than spirituality or the community.”
His method is to integrate, into the process, “the eastern idea of the self... that our individual self is not the ultimate and true self, that we can also connect with what Vedanta might call the ‘cosmic or universal self’, a blissful nonjudgmental awareness.”
Is Your Heart Broken?
(Here’s a quick checklist from the doctor)
Feeling more tired, sad or angry than usual
Not being as interested in doing regular tasks
Thinking and obsessing about the ex
Losing enthusiasm in life
Symptoms of depression
Feelings of cynicism about the world
Feeling isolated and not understood
In some cases, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts
Grieving is Important
“Grieving (over a heartbreak) is not indulgence or escapism, rather it is the space that allows us to come to terms with loss, to accept it and to heal,” says Dr Shyam Bhat. “All too often people think that in order to move on, they must suppress sad thoughts or feelings. In fact, this only makes matters worse... it is important to be more gentle with yourself during this time, to talk to a counsellor if necessary, and yet to stay busy and focused on other people and goals.”